Tuesday, February 19, 2013

a cup of nostalgia

I’ve always felt that certain flavors allow me to recall specific memories and events in life. Steamed eggplant is always associated with my grandmother’s spectacular dinners, and the fragrant aroma of oolong tea never fails to remind me of my mother.

There is one particular beverage that always transports me back to my childhood, to the point where I can almost feel the nutty taste lingering on my tongue. Soy milk has been a staple drink in my life, one that I’ve always associated with the warmth of home and nostalgia.

Having lived in the United States for almost 16 years or more, sometimes the typical grocery store soy milk doesn’t cut it. It’s a nice substitute when I don’t have milk for my coffee and oatmeal, but it lacks the distinct flavor of soy that I always try to seek out.

Store bought soy milk tends to hide the natural flavor of soy, choosing instead, to enhance the sweetness. My mother calls it, “catering to the people,” because soy can be an acquired taste. Each person describes the soy flavor in a different way; for me, it’s a subtle nutty flavor, but for others, it tastes like burnt milk. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense—it explained why so many people were turned off by the thought of eating tofu, at least.

On days when I feel extremely homesick, I dedicate an entire day to homemade soy milk. I usually buy two pounds of soybeans, and soak them in water overnight. The entire process is easy, but very time consuming. After the beans have been soaked, I toss them into a blender with a couple cups of water. The grainy mixture of water and beans is then poured into a large pot, where it slowly boils. The grain is strained out, leaving behind rich and creamy soy milk, full of flavor.

I’m never bothered by the long process, because the entire time I’m making my soy milk, the kitchen truly smells comforting, identical to the gentle aroma of soy milk sold by street vendors in Hong Kong.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

green tea marble cake

I wasn't kidding when I said I'd backlog on all the stuff I've created in these eight months. It's not a lot, but it's definitely a bit more content for this tiny blog.

Normally, I sit around on foodgawker and look at something that strikes my fancy, but this time, two things were certain. One—I was in the mood for something green tea flavored, because I have an obsession with tea and baked goods. Two—I wanted something that could satisfy my sweet tooth, but not something overwhelming like a chocolate pound cake. So I went to Kirbie's Cravings, because I love going there when Foodgawker doesn't have anything that I'm immediately attracted to...and I found this little gem. (Well, I always find a little gem there. That site! Just... so full of gems!) Anyways, green tea marble cake! After skimming the instructions, I decided to give this a spin.

Green tea marble cake (Recipe from Kirbie's Cravings)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoons matcha powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line 9 x 5 loaf pan with foil.
  3. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with sour cream. Add vanilla, and mix 1 minute.
  4. Portion out 1/3 of the batter into a small bowl. Mix in matcha powder, stirring well to combine.
  5. Spread one-third of the plain batter into prepared pan. Use a small offset spatchula to ensure an even, flat layer. Dollop with 1/3 of matcha batter and use a spatchula to gently spread the matcha layer on the top of the other. Spread another third of the plain batter on top, followed by another third of the matcha batter. Repeat one more time so that the final layer is the rest of the matcha batter. Run a thin knife through batter to marbleize. Run spatchula over top to ensure the batter is flat in the end.
  6. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire cooking rack for a few minutes. Lift cake out and allow to cool completely on rack.
The result came out pretty nicely! Not too sweet, but not bland, with just a hint of matcha that made this stand out a bit more than the standard marble cake. I think I baked it for a little too long (I left it in there for around 55 minutes) so it was a bit browner than I'd have liked it to be, but the inside was still moist, so I can't complain, right?

giga pudding

What do you know—eight months later and I've finally remembered to update this thing. I'm sorry for the two followers that followed me expecting updates... College for the most part is extremely time consuming, and I haven't been allowed to really jot down my baking adventures. Not that I have a lot when I'm in college anyway. Well, that's not entirely it. Part of it is because I get super lazy when it comes to blogging, and I got into a cooking/baking slump towards the beginning of my spring semester in college. That semester was full of Chiptole and other sorts of fast foods that I don't want to recall.

But now it's summer, and I've decided to at give this another go. Currently, I'm in Hong Kong, the home of good foods and where everything is tasty and nothing hurts. (Just kidding, everything hurts because it's either stir-fried or deep-fried. Agony.) Regardless, expect posts related to Hong Kong food and Asian cuisine in general! While I might not be blogging about my own food, maybe you'll be interested in the food that I've been trying out here...? Maybe? Here's hoping!

I'll also probably post a couple of bread/baking recipes that I've done since the last time I updated. My memory's a bit fuzzy on some of the things, but if anything, it might still be good for reference or something!

 In any case, to make this entry at least a little bit relevant, here's a quick and easy dessert recipe. Giga pudding! My roommate and I made this the day before summer break started. We originally planned on making macarons, but due to lack of time and coordination and general procrastination, we decided to throw something together quickly so that we guaranteed ourselves a dessert at the end of the day, haha.

For those who don't know, Giga Pudding originated from this Japanese commercial, selling...well... a bucket-sized pudding. Well they call it pudding, but you know, it looks like flan to me. (I still refer to it as pudding though, too...) And seeing as we can't buy jumbo-sized pudding here, my roommate and I took it upon ourselves to make our own.

  1. Open the caramel sauce packet and pour it into a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Pour milk into a large pot, and add in the flan mixture. Stir until smooth.
  3. Stir frequently, and turn off the heat when it comes to a boil.
  4. Pour the milk/flan mixture into the large bowl. Let cool.
  5. Store in refrigerator for 2-4 hours, or until firm to the touch.
  6. When firm, use a plastic knife to go around the outside of the pudding to loosen it up.
  7. Grab a large plate, and flip the pudding onto it!
  8. Jiggle your giant pudding in satisfaction.

 Ta-dahhhh! Easy, right? We don't have large pots or bowls in our teeny little college dorm, so we had to improvise. We used two pots to make the mixture (1 packet/1 quart of milk per pot) and we ended up using my rice cooker pot to pour/solidify the flan in. That's why you can see the little notch markings on our giga pudding, because the notches are there to measure water and rice levels for cooking rice. (Teehee.)

It didn't come out as big as the Japanese giga pudding, but if we had used 3 packets of flan mix, we wouldn't have been able to pour all of it into one container. My rice pot simply isn't big enough—it fits exactly two quarts! Our giga pudding came out very syrupy too, because we used a lot of caramel sauce, but if you want it less sweet/less brown/less caramely, just eyeball it and see how much sauce you want to put. Our pudding resulted in something that was rich, smooth, and very fun to eat—we were surprised because we had such good results, despite it being box flan. And we had a lot of fun sharing it with our friends...no one could stop jiggling the pudding around, so we made a mess.

And just as a side note: The instructions say to add egg or use a richer (larger fat %) milk if you want a richer flan, but we used 2% skim milk without any eggs and it still worked out rich enough for us!

Monday, September 26, 2011

cookies 'n cream cookies

I'm back! It's been awhile, huh, blog? *blows dust off*

Well, college has been intense and it's done a good job of keeping me busy, so I haven't had much time to update. I've made simple dishes here and there, since I do need food in order to live and all, but I haven't felt the need to take pictures of the dishes I've made, sine they're so simple, even a five year old can do them. Oh well. Maybe I'll take some pictures and blog about it one day, if someone's really curious. Or if I'm really bored. Which sounds more likely, seeing as this blog isn't quite popular enough anyway, haha!

In any case, I decided to use some of the free time I had today to bake cookies with my roommate. We're both pretty crazy about FoodGawker. No lie, it's what I read every morning while I eat breakfast, and what I check right before I go to bed every night. It's a little scary how obsessively I can scan for recipes and favorite things left and right. And we just so happened to settle our little eyes on this particular recipe for oreo cookies.

The problem was finding the time to actually make them. So we kept this recipe tucked in the back of our minds, biding time until the day we could make them... Which was today. We initially wanted to make them for a friend, especially since he drives us around for groceries and stuff. We're really grateful, Eric! We just wish we could express it through baking a bit more often. Sigh, if only we had more time during the day...

So these babies popped out of the oven after about maybe ten minutes of prepping and talking. I guess it helps when there's two people making things instead of just one! I'll save the rest of my rambling for a little later... I'm sure the recipe's a bit more important right now.

Cookies 'n Cream Cookies (Recipe from Sweet Tooth)

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Oreo's, broken up into small pieces
  1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).
  3. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well mixed.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined.
  6. Gently fold in Oreo pieces.
  7. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet about 1-2" apart.
  8. Bake for 8-10 minutes*, until the edges JUST start to brown. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
They're deliciously cookies and cream-like. But I think I actually liked the cookie dough more than I liked it when it was baked. I mean, it had a wonderfully moist yet slightly crunchy side that I adore in cookies, but for some reason my roommate and I could not stop licking the batter when we were mixing.

Speaking of mixing, I got carried away mixing, so that's why ours are so evenly grey and brown from the oreo cookies being mixed in... It's supposed to look a bit like a chocolate chip cookie does, with the brownish golden yellow color of a cookie, speckled with bits of oreo, but I guess we'll strive for that next time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

black sesame brownie

My little babies! Have I mentioned that black sesame seeds are my new favorite obsession right now? I love these things so much. The flavor, and the nutty aroma are definitely the two things that managed to capture my heart. I had wanted to buy some black sesame seeds ever since summer started, but I hadn't been able to get ahold of them until the last week of my summer break - right before school started. Still eager to make something out of it, I wasted no time and decided to make something instead of packing up for college. Oh well.

Initially, I wanted to do a black sesame tang yuan - a sweet and chewy ball of rice flour that has black sesame in the middle - but that seemed a bit too difficult for me to make since I was particularly pressed on time that day... I'll make it over winter break or whenever I get back home though, because tang yuan is amazing and I could have it every day if I had the option to!

I settled for doing black sesame brownies though. Except I didn't really "settle" for them - I more like pounced on the idea and the recipe, because it seemed like such an easy thing to bake, and also because brownies have never failed me in the history of ever. And it really was a breeze to make, although there was a bit too much butter for my liking. I was a little grossed out to see so much butter swirling around in my pan, so I think I'll lower the amount next time...

Black Sesame Brownies (Recipe from Pig Pig's Corner)

  • 150 g unsalted butter - melted
  • 100 g black sesame seeds
  • 140 g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbs black sesame seeds (to sprinkle on top).
  1. Pre-heat oven to 160°C (fan).
  2. Combine melted butter and sesame seeds in a food processor or blender and blend until a paste is formed.
  3. Add sesame paste to a pan, add sugar and soy sauce, fry for a few mins until fragrant (oil will start to seaprate). Remove from heat and leave this to cool.
  4. When sesame mixture is cool to touch (warm is fine), mix in eggs one by one.
  5. Gently fold in plain flour until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into a lightly greased and lined square tin.
  7. Sprinkle black sesame seeds on top. [Don't omit this step, as the sesame seeds add a nice crunch to the cake!]
  8. Bake for about 25 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.

They came out a little too sweet for me... It goes nicely with a cup of warm milk, but I know that if I remake this, I'll definitely cut down on the sugar and the butter. When the sesame seed paste is being stirred in the pan, you could really see the sesame seeds release their oils, and that along with the butter was a little too much for me. I even decided to pour some of the butter out so that I wouldn't have to work out for five hours or something. It tasted wonderful, but I know that this kind of thing isn't healthy at all - it made me feel a little guilty afterward, but it's not like I'll bake something like this all the time.

Now I wonder if I can do something similar to this but in a cupcake form...? I'm just eager to be reunited with my black sesame once again because I have so much planned for it.